Thursday, January 10, 2008

Journey, Not Destination

There is a quote that says: "It is all about the journey, not the destination." --- God sure has brought my hubby and me through an incredible journey this past half a year or so. Today, I can finally share our journey publicly as we feel that God has finally brought us to a point where another journey is about to begin.

Let me begin by saying we have good news and we have sad news. The sad news is that we will be leaving our home church very soon. This is the church that we have come to love so much over the past 15 years; where we started and built our family; and most importantly, where we have grown much with God and where we've had countless opportunities to serve Him faithfully. We know that it will be very difficult for us to say goodbye to our church family but God has given us a sense of release and a peace which transcends all understanding. A part of our hearts will always remain at Morningstar.

This is where the good news comes in. Why are we leaving our home church? Where are we going? Well, God has led us to join a church planting team to work in the very city and community in which we live! This is indeed very exciting for our family. This is the change that I have been referring to over the past few months. Now, I can finally claim the following quote to be true of what I am feeling:

"I know God is speaking to me when, in spite of my initial struggle, an undeniable release and peace follows when I have obeyed His voice. When I finally do the thing He has been nudging me to do, whether it's letting something or someone go, or taking a step toward the unknown, there is a deep calm in my soul. Where my heart and mind were once filled with terrible angst, I am now filled with a supernatural peace."
---Kathy Troccoli, as printed in 'Discerning the Voice of God' Week 4, Day 3, page 73

Here is our story ---
The year 2007 slowly developed into a very trying and difficult year for us in terms of ministry involvement. A sense of restlessness arose in our hearts causing us to really ask God what He is trying to tell us through all the turmoil that we were facing. My hubby and I spent much time in prayer, reading God's word, talking to people we trust and of course, with one another.

Initially, we thought that God was asking us to move into different ministries within our home church, but the sense of restlessness persisted within us and we still didn’t have peace. It was then when we started to sense that God might indeed be moving us out of our home church. But where was He leading us to? At that point, we could not see where. At about the same time, God gave us the verse from Isaiah 55:12 through a sermon on one day and through an online devotional that I read the following day. Now, that kind of a coincidence can only be God! The verse says: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

My hubby and I brainstormed scenarios that would indeed cause us to leave our home church. Not one resonated with us or even seemed possible except for one --- a church plant. We left the conversation at that. I shrugged off this impression because I did not want to accept the ‘changes’ that would come with that, but the thought would not leave me in the days ahead. It lingered in my heart.

God also used Abraham’s story to speak to us. Abraham obeyed God and left his home not knowing where God was leading him to. In Hebrews 11:8 it says: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” After being confronted with Abraham’s story, we surrendered to God. We became willing to obey --- that is, willing to leave our home church and go wherever God would take us.

Believe it or not, within two weeks of surrendering to God, we came face to face with two (not just one, but TWO!) church plants that were starting up in early 2008. We were blown away. We certainly did not go searching for these church plants, they fell on our laps! In fact, we've never come across any church plants in the past, ever! This told us that God is indeed leading us to work in a church plant environment. It is quite amazing how God works as the details of our lives just fall into place like puzzle pieces when we are walking in His will.

These Bible verses came to mind for me at this point ---

Romans 8:28 (NIV) --- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Psalm 37:4 (NIV) --- “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Isaiah 55:9 (NIV) --- “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

We decided to pursue both church plants and asked God to open and close doors for us as He saw fit. At one point, we even pursued the possibility of these two church plant visions merging into one. Very quickly, God made it crystal clear to us which team He wanted us to go with. This church plant vision is a huge dream; it will be challenging and will require a lot of work. But, we have peace that this is what God would want us to do. So, we are charging full steam ahead.

At this point, the Bible verse from Jeremiah 29:11 came to me. It says: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We told both our children about the changes that are about to happen in terms of how we serve God as a family. Both are understandably sad at having to leave our home church (the only church they know), but both of them quickly warmed up to and are excited about the idea of a church plant. I am indeed grateful to God for giving my children the understanding and the willingness to obey Him in whatever and wherever He leads us as a family.

On New Year’s Day 2008, God gave me the verses from Joshua 1:5b-6,8-9 through my personal devotions and also through an online sermon, both on the same day from two different sources. Now, again, only God can make that happen!

Joshua 1:5b-6, 8-9 (NIV) --- "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

My God never ceases to amaze me. These verses spoke to me significantly. It was a new beginning for Joshua after Moses had died. God assured Joshua in these passages that He will never leave him or forsake him, and that Joshua was to be strong and courageous because God will do amazing things among the people. The online sermon I listened to spoke significantly to me as well --- the pastor spoke about it being the time to move on; the start of a new beginning.

So yesterday, we met with the leadership of our home church to share our journey with them. We will forever remember the grace, love, affirmation and support they showed us as we told them our story. Although we will still attend worship services there each week until Sunday services start at the church plant, yesterday certainly felt very much like the end of a chapter, and the beginning of a new one!

We wrote a letter to our home church and this is how we ended it: “As you can see, we have struggled long and hard before coming to this decision but ultimately, it comes down to one thing --- obedience. We strongly believe that obedience to God is our foremost priority as children of God. We know that it will be difficult for us to say goodbye to the Morningstar church family that we have come to love over the past 15 years but God has given us a sense of release and a peace which transcends all understanding. Please pray for us, as we will continue to pray for Morningstar, that as we continue to co-labour for the Kingdom of God, we will fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Thus ends this journey and the next one begins! We are excitedly and eagerly anticipating what God has in store for us through this church plant. I know that it will be a wild ride --- another journey that will grow us and mold us into the people that God wants us to become! To God be all the glory.

"There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
---Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

"...and upon this Rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it."
---Matthew 16:18 NLT

1 comment: